Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Eternal Buck Jones

Editor's Note: This is Timothy England's debut story with Western Magazine Digest. Tim is an up-and-coming, quasi-fiction author with four full-length books in print, all written under his pseudonym Jess Bryan. We're glad to have him and I believe you will enjoy his work as much as I do. --Al Colombo, PublisherCharles Frederick Gebhart, also known as Buck Jones (born 1891, died 1942) was an American actor, writer. A producer, a co-director, and a director. As Buck Jones, he was one of the greatest of the "B" western stars of all time. Although born in Indiana, Jones reportedly (but disputably) grew up on a ranch near Red Rock in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). There he learned the riding and shooting skills that would stand him in good stead as a Western hero.

Jones joined the army as a teenager and served on the US-Mexican border before seeing action in the Moro uprising in the Philippines. Though wounded, he recuperated and re-enlisted, hoping to become a pilot. However, he was not accepted for pilot training and so he left the army in 1913.

Jones took a menial job with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show and soon became a champion bronco buster. He moved on to the Julia Allen Show, but with the beginning of the First World War, he took work as a horse trainer for the Allied armies.

After the war, Buck Jones and his wife, Odelle Osborne--whom he had met in the Miller Brothers show--toured with Ringling Brothers circus--then settling in Hollywood. Here he was able to get work in a number of Westerns starring Tom Mix and Franklyn Farnum. Producer William Fox put Jones under contract and promoted him as a new Western star.

In this role, Jones first used the name Charles Jones, then Charles "Buck" Jones, before he settled on his permanent stage name. He quickly climbed to the upper ranks of Western stardom, playing a more dignified, less gaudy hero than Mix, if not as austere as William S. Hart.

Jones was one of the most successful and popular actors in the Western genre. At one point he received more fan mail than any actor in the world. For example, months after America's entry into World War II, Jones participated in a war-bond-selling tour.

On November 28, 1942, he was a guest of some local citizens in Boston at the famed Coconut Grove nightclub. Unfortunately, fire broke out at the club and nearly 500 people died in one of the worst fire disasters on record. Jones was horribly burned and died two days later before his wife Dell could arrive to comfort him.
Buck Jones was one of the 492 victims of the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, Massachusetts on November 28, 1942. He died two days later on November 30, at age 50.

Some news reports said that he had successfully escaped but had gone back into the burning building to save others and was trapped there.
--Wikipedia (
Although legend has it that he died returning to the blaze to rescue others (a story probably originated by producer Trem Carr for whatever reason), the historical evidence indicates that he was trapped right along with all the others, succumbing to the smoke and flames, as they tried to escape.

Buck Jones remains forever a hero to the thousands of movie watchers that followed his film adventures. For example, Jones played a major part in Rough Riders, a western film series where Jones starred as U. S. Marshal Buck Roberts. Also, between 1941 and 1942, he played significant roles in eight different films:

1. Arizona Bound (1941)
2. The Gunman From Bodie (1941)
3. Forbidden Trails (1941)
4. Below The Border (1942)
5. Ghost Town Law (1942)
6. Down Texas Way (1942)
7. Riders of the West (1942)
8. West of Law (1942)

Watch Buck Jones in action in the Western Magazine Digest Hot Box!
Editor's Note: Incidentally, like The Lone Ranger, Buck Jones rode a horse named "Silver." I'll be surprised if some folks out there don't claim that Buck Jones was the inspiration for the famous television character, The Lone Ranger, like they did with the real life Black lawman and former slave, Bass Reeves!

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